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Transport / Roddick presses for early changes to new free bus travel scheme for young people

The Lerwick-Bressay ferry terminal. Photo: Shetland News/Neil Riddell.
Journeys on Shetland's inter-island ferries are currently not included in the new free bus travel scheme for young people. Photo: Shetland News.

HIGHLANDS and Islands list MSP Emma Roddick has vowed to continue her fight to convince her own government that ferry journeys should be included in the new concession scheme that allows young people free bus travel from the end of January.

Local politicians have described the scheme as “discriminatory” and at odds with government policy, after an islands impact assessment concluded that ferries should not be included.

According to government agency Transport Scotland the issue of concessionary schemes for ferries would form part of a ‘fair fares’ review.

Emma Roddick MSP.

Roddick, who won the SNP’s only list MSP seat in the Highlands and Islands at last year’s election, said that in her view the reasoning of the impact assessment did not add up.

She said that particularly for people living in the outer isles ferries are the equivalent of buses and should therefore be included in the scheme that gives everyone under 22 free bus travel.

Roddick said young people should not be disadvantaged for living in island communities.

She has now written to transport minister Graeme Dey asking him to re-consider.

“There are a lot of misconceptions around how vital ferries are for many, especially in the outer islands,” she told Shetland News.

“My position that, for some young people, ferries are the equivalent of buses on mainland Scotland, remains the same.

“I have written again to the minister for transport to ask if the inclusion of inter-island ferries in the free bus travel scheme can be reconsidered in future to make the policy fairer for young islanders, especially considering the fact that we are trying to encourage people to stay and work in these communities.”

Under a similar concession scheme for those aged 60 and over (bus pass), and 16 to 18 year old YoungScot card holders, are entitled to two free return journeys on board the NorthLink ferries a year. Journeys on the inter island ferries for those aged 60 and over are not free. Bus pass holders are entitled to a reduced OAP  fare.

The scheme, a key policy of the Scottish Greens when they joined the current government partnership, will come into force on 31 January.

The application process for the entitlement cards is now open. More details about how to apply can be found here.